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The best East Village restaurants

Feast your eyes on the finest East Village restaurants, from Korean restaurants to Carolina barbecue

Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz
Sweetbreads with sweet-corn esquites at Empellon Cocina

In recent years, the East Village has served as the nexus of quintessential New York dining. With top toques downsizing their fine-dining restaurants and opening bite-size eateries downtown, every block in the neighborhood is teeming with new bars and restaurants. From sushi restaurants to comfort-food spots, here are the best East Village restaurants.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the East Village in NYC 

Best East Village restaurants

Babu Ji

The state of Indian food in New York is a divided one: Cultish, rickety dosa carts and home-cooked Punjabi counters occupy one end; modern Michelin-level fine-dining rooms gloss up the other. Babu Ji, a South Melbourne import from husband-and-wife team Jessi and Jennifer Singh (from Chandigarh and New York City, respectively), falls comfortably in the middle. There’s a tasting menu, but it’s only $50 per person; a thoughtful wine list but also a fend-for-yourself beer fridge. And plates are similarly middlebrow—slow-cooked lamb folded into a Kashimiri-style Rogan gosht, raw Long Island scallops dropped into turmeric-yellow coconut curry—heartily accessible but more pristinely garnished than your hole-in-the-wall curry house.

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East Village

DBGB Kitchen and Bar

Chef Daniel Boulud doesn’t do decent, so-so or almost great. Even as he branches out around the world—with outlets in Palm Beach, Beijing and Vancouver—the perfectionist chef is forever tinkering with even his most venerable spots. Even in a city awash in unruly menus, DBGB’s stands out for its kitchen-sink scope. Until Boulud has the common sense to pare the thing down, you may want to come with a shortlist of desired dishes—and a preemptive idea of the sort of evening you’re after. DBGB exists on so many levels that various members of a party can walk out with the sense that they’ve eaten in several different places. One incarnation: an accessible brasserie, with simple soups and salads, and classics like roasted chicken breast, steak frites and Icelandic cod.

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East Village

Edi & the Wolf

On a greenhouse-inspired patio, a hodgepodge of herbs, flowers, and vegetation hangs overhead from mismatched vintage potters and planters. These touches—combined with the worn appearance of salvaged-barn-wood tables—conspire to create a homey atmosphere in which Chefs Eduard Frauneder (“Edi”) and Wolfgang Ban (“the Wolf”) revisit the flavors of their native Austria at this neighborhood tavern deep in Alphabet City. Find simple dishes like a roasted beet salad with yogurt and pumpkin-seed praline, and tamarind barbecued baby back ribs with bacon slaw.

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East Village

Empellón Cocina

The taco-free Empellón Cocina is a return for Alex Stupak to more familiar territory: not a sugary retreat but a step back toward his haute-cuisine roots. This follow-up to Taqueria may look more casual than the first—as dark as an East Village saloon, with walls covered in Day of the Dead paintings and a trippy blue rooster out of some peyote-popping fever dream—but much of the food is more creative and high-end than the setting suggests. Everything here is designed for sharing, and a table cluttered with his most impressionistic fare feels Mexican only in the most cosmopolitan sense.

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East Village

Huertas

Young guns Jonah Miller (Maialino) and Nate Adler (Blue Smoke) team up for this Basque-inflected spot, serving pitch-perfect pintxos (duck liver mousse, mussels) and composed platos (saffron-chorizo fried rice, flat iron steak) in a garlic-perfumed bar area and back dining room. House-made vermouth and a well-appointed selection of wines round out the lusty offerings.

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East Village

Ippudo NY

This sleek outpost of a Japanese ramen chain is packed mostly with Nippon natives who queue up for a taste of “Ramen King” Shigemi Kawahara’s tonkotsu—a pork-based broth. The house special, Akamaru Modern, is a smooth, buttery soup topped with scallions, cabbage, a slice of roasted pork, miso paste and pleasantly elastic noodles. Avoid nonsoup dishes like the oily fried-chicken nuggets coated in a sweet batter. Long live the Ramen King—just don’t ask him to move beyond his specialty.

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Downtown

Momofuku Ko

After six years in a shoebox storefront on First Avenue, David Chang started thinking bigger for his 12-seat chef's counter, the most expensive restaurant of the Momofuku empire. In October 2014, he closed the original Ko to shuffle it to a triple-the-size space just off the Bowery, kitted out with a massive dark-wood 22-seat counter at its center and tables for larger parties. Here, diners can fishbowl-view the chef-servers as they prepare the multicourse meal from start to finish. The ever-evolving menu has included creative numbers like a matcha-tea–dusted mille-feuille that layers house-made rye puff pastry with béchamel and trout roe, and a mackerel sabazushi that’s pickled, pressed, seared and sliced before being served across a wasabi leaf with a drizzle of dashi ponzu.

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East Village

Momofuku Milk Bar East Village

Pastry whiz Christina Tosi conjures up homey sweets at this lauded bakery down the block from Momofuku Ssäm Bar. East village hipsters, fawning foodies and in-the-know tourists line up for the cultish goodies, including crack pie (toasted oat crust with a gooey butter filling), cereal-milk soft serve and compost cookies made with pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch and chocolate chips.

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East Village

Momofuku Noodle Bar

At Momofuku boss David Chang's relocated flagship, the signature elements are in place (light-wood decor, a dozen-deep crowd, the Asian-tinged chow), but Chang steps up his game in the larger space with the addition of table service and some new dishes. The house pork-belly ramen, and a spicy miso variety, exist alongside Chang’s hall-of-fame buns (chicken, shrimp) and rice cakes with chicken, egg and bonito. Finish off a meal with a selection of Milk Bar confections like soft serve and cookies.

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East Village

Momofuku Ssäm Bar

Momofuku Ssäm Bar Chef David Chang’s latest feels like two restaurants fused into one: a Korean Chipotle, and a self-aware joint serving designer ham and pricey platters. Waiters hustle to noisy rock music in this 50-seat space, which feels like Megu compared with its predecessor’s crowded counter dining. Chefs create concoctions priced to sample, including the wonderfully fatty pork-belly steamed bun with hoisin sauce and cucumbers, and the lunchtime ssäm (Korean for “wrap”), which might be the finest burrito in the city.

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East Village
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Comments

3 comments
JM de Jesus
JM de Jesus

Mi Casa es Su Casa Restaurant 140-142 Orchard Street Bet. Rivington St. and Delancey Street. This is the revenge of fine dining in the East Village. The Latin American (Ecuador, Spain, and Caribbean) cuisine takes on a whole new dimension at this new and cozy little restaurant. Operated by Head Chef and owner Jairo Morales, and Sous Chef Extraordinaire Sabdiel Cortez, the restaurant brings fine dining back to an area loaded with cheap, fast food, offerings. This ain't the cheapest meal in the area but it was well worth the money. Try the Iberian Ham and shrimp stuffed garlic tostones appetizers. The Chuleton is a pork chop filled with mashed yucca over a bed of Asian rice is exquisite. The aged steaks and the Churrasco platter (named entrañas in Ecuador) just melt in your mouth. For dessert, I had a trés leches cupcake that was absolutely mouth watering and sublimely delicious. These are home baked on premises by the chef's wife. Now I have heard from some of my white acquaintances that it's all the same $% to white folks, but I refuse to believe that there are no sophisticated palates among all of the trendy and affluent Caucasian twenty something’s roaming that area of the LES at night. If you want a cheap taco, go elsewhere ( I hear there's a great truck on 14th Street off of 8th avenue) but if you really want to impress your significant other and have an amazing culinary-and dining-experience, then head on over there. It's well worth the money. JM de Jesus

Matt Murry
Matt Murry

man, east village is the BOMB! alphabet city also has some pretty legit stuff too. if you know someone who lives there itd be better since they can show you around, if not check out this listing of awesome places to eat at I loooove going to the East Village to eat, seriously one of my favorite places to hang to grab some unique eats. I actually read this yahoo article that this guy listed for cheap places to dig that are actually good, pretty informative check it out here: http://voices.yahoo.com/10-best-cheap-eats-yorks-east-village-12116782.html

Arthur Ashby
Arthur Ashby

Wacky Wok on Avenue D at 9th street in the East Village is a special place to eat and deserves attention. All the ingredients are there for enjoyable meals: An imaginative menu full of healthy, tasty and wholesome food choices at extremely reasonable prices.